Coming off a big win over a very solid Capital Prep team a week ago, the Bristol Central football team heads back into the CCC Division II-West fray tonight when they take on Platt in a 6:30 start at Falcon Field in Meriden.
Last year the Rams and the Panthers were part of a trip that shared the division title. This year the two find themselves tied for second, a game behind Maloney in the standings.
The winner tonight would remain alive for the division crown. The loser will be for all intents and purposes eliminated.
Central established itself as an offensive threat from the opening kickoff in the win over Capital Prep and the Rams will be looking for another quick start out of the gate tonight. “We have to come out right from the start like we did last week,” said coach Jeff Papazian, “and we need to be ready to play good, hard, physical football for four quarters.”
The Rams have faced their share of teams with talented athletic backfields, and tonight’s contest will be more of the same. The Central defense has been solid over the last two games and will need to be again tonight. Last week the defense was able to wear down the Longhorns and grew stronger as the game went on. The Rams forced three turnovers including two big second half fumble recoveries and the defense is poised to take advantage of any of those opportunities that come up tonight.
“Platt is another team that is very talented at the skill positions,” said Papazian. “They have a really good back (Ethan Dudley) that we will have to focus on. He’s a junior who had a pretty good game against us last year. And they have a quarterback (Aurelio Marinelli) who, from what we have been able to see on film, is a very smart player who knows what to do with the ball. He reads coverage very well and he knows where to put it.”
When the Rams are on offense, they will need to be ready for an aggressive Platt defensive unit. “They are going to give us a number of different looks defensively,” Papazian said. “They like to bring the linebackers so our offensive line is going to have to be very blitz conscious.”
Last week the Rams had one of the more balanced attacks they have shown this season with two backs rushing for over 100 yards and they will be looking to continue that tonight. Last week both Justus Fitzpatrick and Darrell Payton each had big games running the ball. Quarterback Dathan Hickey was neutralized as a runner early but responded with a big fourth quarter to rally the Rams to the win.
“We thought that Capital Prep might try to take Dathan away and they did,” said Papazian. “They had one guy shadowing him all night. But that was fine with us. It gave other guys a chance to make plays and Justus and Darrell showed us last week that they have the ability to do that. We have to spread the ball around again tonight.”
Another key to last week’s win that could also play a role tonight was the special teams play.
“Any time you can block a punt that’s a big play,” said Papazian,, “and when you block it and scoop it and score that ‘s a huge play.”
Last week Ryan Rodriguez came up with a big punt block and Dominic Va was able to return it 25 yards for the score that proved to be the difference in the Rams’ win.
“Our punt return coverage was very good and we need another big effort out of our special teams tonight,” Papazian said.
Papazian also noted the effect of new placekicker Damar Hamilton who just recently joined the team. Hamilton kicked three extra points to mitigate an area where the Rams have struggled all season. “Having Damar kick those extra points was important,” said Papazian, “because it put them in a position where they had to go for two and put the pressure on the other side for a change.”
Central scored a 30-26 win over the Panthers in a back and forth game a year ago and the series between the two long time rivals has been a close one in recent years.
The Rams have won the last two meetings.
Central holds a 27-24-1 edge all time over Platt in a series that has featured a lot of high scoring games. Tonight’s contest should be another offensive show.